How to Test an MVP: 15 Proven Strategies that Work

Amit Manchanda
Amit Manchanda
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Table of Contents

Table of Contents

A Minimum Viable Product (MVP) is a smart, cost-effective way to determine whether your software idea is something the market wants, and it allows you to gather user feedback so you can put your time and resources toward building something that users find valuable.

We’ve written at length about building an MVP, launching an MVP, and the different types of MVPs you can create, but this is arguably the most important post we’ve written on the subject.

Why is it so important? MVP testing is where it all comes together. The following MVP testing methods will pave the way for validating your idea and gathering customer feedback on your product’s usability, its functionality, and your overall business model.

Key Takeaways

  • Testing is key to MVP success—without it, there’s no point in creating an MVP
  • Testing strategies range from easy and inexpensive (e.g., low-fidelity prototypes, explainer videos) to complex and intricate (i.e., functioning single-feature products)
  • Choose your MVP testing strategy based on your specific needs and circumstances, such as budget, resources, and the specific demands of your product idea

The 15 MVP testing strategies that follow have been used by many successful companies, from Zappos to Dropbox. Let’s dive in!

What Is MVP Testing?

MVP testing is the process of introducing a Minimum Viable Product to the market and using specific techniques to gather feedback and assess product viability.

This is not to be confused with market research, which takes place before building an MVP. In the testing phase, startups (or enterprises launching new products) determine whether the market considers it valuable.

Do your core features solve a significant problem? Will people pay for the solution you’ve created? MVP testing will help you answer these questions.

Why Is It Important to Test an MVP?

It’s not just important to test an MVP—testing is what it’s all about! Not testing an MVP is like buying a Lamborghini and leaving it in the garage. MVP testing is where you’ll learn whether you’re product is capable of:

  • Offering a solution to a problem that people will pay money to solve
  • Attracting an initial user base
  • Achieving product-market fit within a key market segment

It’s also how you’ll gather that initial round of feedback that you’ll use to develop your product idea, assuming there’s a market for it. The only way to get that feedback is by testing your MVP, and the testing method you choose will be based on your specific product and individual circumstances.

15 Best Ways to Test an MVP

In the years since The Lean Startup popularized the MVP approach, software companies have come up with numerous techniques for testing MVPs and gathering feedback. The following 15 techniques for testing an MVP can be broadly placed in two different categories: Low-fidelity techniques and High-fidelity techniques.

When an MVP comes to mind, we often think of high—fidelity MVPs—a stripped-down product that is simple yet fully functional. Meanwhile, a low-fidelity MVP is not even a functioning product yet. Instead, it may consist of a landing page, explainer video, or website that uses manual processes to achieve what your product will ultimately achieve through technology.

Similarly, there are high-fidelity and low-fidelity techniques for testing MVPs, each with its advantages and disadvantages. Choose the MVP testing technique that works best for your timeline, budget, and overall strategy.

  • Analyzing existing competitive products

    One way to carve out a niche in the software industry is to combine features from existing products to create a unique solution that doesn’t yet exist in a single product.

    If that’s the case, you can test MVP ideas by surveying your target audience and having them evaluate the combined solution you’re hoping to launch.

    While not, strictly speaking, an MVP test, this approach is a good place to start when attempting to validate your proposed solution. It’s far from perfect, especially since your solution will offer its own unique User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) that you will have to test on your own, but it’s a great starting point.

  • Crowdfunding campaigns

    Crowdfunding, through websites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo, offers an alternative to bootstrapping and asking friends for investments. Entrepreneurs use these platforms to gather funds for new business ideas, but people outside the startup scene may not realize that crowdfunding itself can be a good way to test an MVP.

    By creating a prototype for a software product and posting it on a crowding platform, startups can validate their idea and see if people are willing to donate in advance for a product that doesn’t yet exist. If you think about it, that’s quite a vote of confidence!

  • Pre-orders

    One way to test an MVP before building the actual product is to run ad campaigns designed to capture pre-orders for the upcoming product.

    Whether you advertise using Google ads, social media platforms, or any other marketing channel, getting pre-orders for a product that doesn’t yet exist has at least two powerful advantages. First, it gives you funds to work with. Second, it proves that people are willing to pay for the product—which is what validation is all about.

    The downside of this strategy is that it can be a very hard sell for startups that no one has heard of. If people don’t sign up for your promise of an amazing future product, it doesn’t necessarily mean your idea isn’t valid. On the other hand, if they do give you money and you’re an unknown company, that’s a good sign that your product has legs.

    That said, pre-order MVP testing often works best for established companies. Imagine, for instance, if Meta created a video editing software to compete with Final Cut and Adobe Premier. They could advertise its anticipated capabilities before building the product, and the Meta name alone could generate advanced orders.

  • Landing page

    Many startups use a landing page MVP to build buzz around their new product idea and gather a mailing list of potential early adopters. Advertising through various channels drives traffic to the landing page, which outlines all the features of the new product idea.

    Based on the response and the number of visitors willing to sign up to try the product once it’s available, software creators can decide whether to proceed with the design and development process.

  • Split testing

    Split testing, also called A/B testing, is a way to test elements of a website or product to see which choices get the most traction. It can be used in MVP websites and products, but it’s only really valuable if you get a large enough sample size.

    A/B Testing for an MVP

    A large sample size on a split test can help you determine whether your results are statistically significant. Statistical significance measures the likelihood that your results did not occur by chance. The higher the sample size and the larger the variance between the two choices, the higher the statistical significance.

    ABTastey and Crazy Egg are two products that will allow you to test A/B test elements of a landing page MVP or website.

  • Customer interviews

    Customer interviews are a goldmine of actionable information. They can help you gather insights from your customers about your MVP that may be difficult to collect through a survey.

    With customer interviews, you’ll learn what problems your target audience is facing and whether your product is solving them. It’s also an opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to helping them and let them know that improvements are coming.

    Customer interviews are also a good way to get honest feedback. Customers may be tempted to sugarcoat their experience in online surveys, but in an interview, you can stress the importance of getting honest feedback, no matter how negative their feedback might be.

    Here are a couple of interview tips to keep in mind:

    • Start the interview with friendly introductions to put the subject at ease
    • Ask about the problem(s) they were hoping to solve with your product and whether your MVP did solve them
    • Ask open-ended questions and get them talking about their experience, digging deeper when you discover an interesting thread
    • Discuss potential issues with the software and explain the benefit of receiving honest feedback
    • Avoid coming across as promotional while talking about your MVP

    Interviewing is a learned skill, and you’ll get better at putting subjects at ease and eliciting valuable information from them with each interview.

  • Explainer videos

    If an image is worth a thousand words, a video is worth a million. The explainer video MVP is a great way to both showcase and validate a product idea, and you can do it before creating an actual product.

    Explainer videos showcase the product idea, how it works, and why someone might need it. The call to action encourages people to sign up to learn more and gain access to the product MVP after launch.

    You can gauge interest (and validate your product idea) based on the number of sign-ups, which is exactly what Dropbox did with its explainer video MVP. They created a video showcasing Dropbox's intended functionality, which was vital because the concept of off-site storage was new to individual users and small businesses.

    The Dropbox video was simple and informative, and the number of signups went from 5,000 to 75,000 overnight. Keep in mind the product hadn’t even been completed yet!

    Explainer videos should be clear and concise, showing exactly how your product will work. Dropbox wouldn’t have the same impact if the founder had just described the app. Instead, he walked them through the customer workflow to make the value proposition perfectly clear.

  • Experimental MVP testing

    Sometimes, the best MVP testing approach is to conduct a one-off experiment. This not only attracts your target audience but also offers a way to gauge interest in your idea. The best thing about this experimental MVP product testing technique is that it requires minimal investment of time and resources.

    Airbnb is an example of a brand that tested its idea by running an experiment. Once, during a conference in San Francisco, all the hotels were booked. That’s when Brian Chesky and Joe Gebbia (founders of AirBnB) rented out air mattresses in their apartment.

    The experiment was a success. Hence, Brian and Joe decided to pursue it on a larger scale, and we all know where AirBnB is today. Check out our post on famous MVP examples to read about more stories like this.

  • Manual-first MVPs

    A manual-first MVP (also called a Wizard of Oz MVP) is another efficient MVP testing technique that creates the illusion of an automated product. In reality, someone is handling everything behind the scenes.

    For example, when Zappos founder Nick Swinmurn launched his famous shoe store, he simply ordered the shoes manually from other stores. This helped him validate the revolutionary idea that people would buy shoes online. From an imaginary online storefront, Zappos became a beloved brand, which Amazon acquired for $1.2 Billion in 2009.

    Arram Sabeti did the same with ZeroCater, a service that connects caterers with clients. In the beginning, it was Arram, his website, and a large Excel spreadsheet of catering contacts—no automation involved!

    With a manual-first or Wizard of OZ MVP, the user gets exactly what they want, and they know nothing about the “man behind the curtain.” It’s an inexpensive way to validate an idea before developing the product itself.

  • Concierge MVPs

    Using a concierge MVP to test an idea is similar to the manual-first approach, except that you’re completely upfront with your users about using manual processes. As with other low-fidelity MVPs, it’s a great way to validate assumptions and see if users will pay for a product before you build it.

    Rent the Runway, an online dress rental business is an example of a brand that tested its idea using a concierge MVP. They offered an in-person service to college students, allowing them to rent a high-quality dress for a night. They contacted the dress owners and coordinated everything, testing the hypothesis that women would rent high-quality dresses for a single night.

  • Piecemeal MVPs

    A piecemeal MVP uses third-party software products, services, and platforms to perform the MVP's essential tasks. This is a much simpler endeavor than building every component from scratch. And while a product built from scratch offers greater opportunities to customize the user journey, that’s a lot to invest in a product you haven’t yet validated.

    Groupon is probably the most popular example of a piecemeal MVP. Initially built on WordPress, Apple Mail, and an AppleScript that created PDFs manually as orders came through, Groupon minimized the cost of validating their idea and gathering feedback.

  • Digital prototyping

    While prototyping is normally thought of as a way to test a product’s potential User Interface and User Experience, digital prototypes can serve as an MVP. By creating mock-ups, wireframes, and prototypes of your product, you can demonstrate how it will function.

    Digital prototypes may range from simple screenshot previews and low-fidelity sketches to dummy applications that replicate the customer journey. To gather feedback and validate your idea, you can build prototypes using tools like Figma, InvisionApp, or MarvelApp.

  • Paper prototyping

    Paper prototyping is an easier alternative to digital prototyping because all you need is a sketch pad to prepare and execute your MVP. Simply draw out a rough sketch of the UI and walk potential customers through the customer journey.

    Paper prototyping:

    • Reduces the cost of MVP testing to the bare minimum
    • Allows designers to explore many different ideas

    Tinder used paper prototyping for their MVP. They used paper prototypes to see how people would respond to the “swipe left” or '“swipe right” approach to dating, which just about every dating app now uses.

  • Single-feature MVPs

    When people think about an MVP, this is usually what comes to mind—a simple, straightforward, functional product (rather than a prototype or a video) that does just one thing and does it well.

    A single-feature MVP is one of the most accurate ways to test your idea’s core functionality and gather feedback from early adopters. While it’s a long way from a final product with numerous features, it’s a starting point from which to iterate, assuming the idea proves viable.

    Foursquare did this with its MVP. Instead of overwhelming users with a bunch of features, it started with its check-in feature, which was new to social networks at the time. Today, Foursquare does something entirely different, but it still uses the underlying technology, which users loved for a flash in the pan.

  • Hallway testing

    Hallway testing involves approaching random people (such as walking down the hallways of a large organization or finding random people in a public setting) and asking them to perform tasks on your MVP.

    While hallway testing isn’t very scientific, since it doesn’t select members of your target audience, it will give you a sense of how intuitive your UI and UX are. Take note of everything, especially where users become confused or frustrated.

How Long Should an MVP Test Last?

It would be great if we could tell you a specific time frame that will deliver the answers you need, but it’s not so cut and dry. After all, MVP testing isn’t strictly a science. It’s an art as well, and the idea is to get as much feedback as possible without wasting too much time in the process.

We mentioned the concept of statistical significance above while discussing split testing. Although it may be tempting to aim for a high level of confidence to ensure your results didn’t arise by chance, that’s an incredibly high bar, and it’s difficult to achieve with an MVP that reaches a small audience

Instead of aiming for certainty with your MVP testing, test as long as necessary to gauge interest in the product accurately and determine which features would make it even more marketable.

How Much Does MVP Testing Cost?

The cost to test an MVP will vary considerably based on the type of testing you perform and the type of MVP you create. That said, we’ve written a whole post on how much it costs to build an MVP, which will give you a solid sense of the end-to-end price tag (from design to launch).

Of course, the best way to nail down a price estimate for building and testing an MVP is to talk to a professional. Contact us today, and we’ll give you a realistic idea of how much it will cost to design, build, test, and launch your MVP.

What Happens After the MVP Test?

Once you’ve tested your MVP, your next action will depend on your test results. Did you validate your idea? What actionable feedback did you receive, and what did you learn about your users based on their behavior?

If you can’t validate your idea, look for other opportunities within the data. Maybe you came close with your MVP, and a similar idea will take off. Either way, it’s time to pivot or scratch the idea completely.

If you did validate your idea, then analyze the data and comb through your feedback for ways to improve the product. You’ll receive a bunch of ideas for new features, so take the time to methodically prioritize feature ideas so you can develop those that offer the greatest ROI.

Got an idea for an MVP? We can help.

Net Solutions has been designing software for startups, as well as large organizations (like the Harvard Business Review, Xerox, and American Golf), for over 20 years.

We’ve got plenty of experience with MVP creation, and we can manage every stage in the process, from research and design to development and testing. Alternatively, you can outsource any component of your new product creation to us, allowing your in-house team to focus on their areas of expertise.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1. How many users do I need for MVP testing?

This question is similar to the one we posed above about how long you should test your MVP. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to give a specific number, and aiming for a high degree of statistical significance may be a fool’s errand. It will all depend on how many initial users you can get in a reasonable time frame and whether they can validate your idea and offer actionable feedback.

2. How can I identify the right audience for MVP validation?

Simply asking “how to find the right audience” reverses the question. First, you find the problem and the audience, and then you build the MVP to serve them.

See, identifying the right audience for an MVP begins long before testing. It’s the first step in building an MVP, where you conduct market research and brainstorm ideas. Between competitive analysis and user research (e.g., customer interviews, surveys, and focus groups), you will build your MVP around what your specific audience wants.

3.How do I know if my MVP is a success?

If you define a successful MVP as one that validates your idea, then your MVP is a success once you’ve generated enough interest to suggest that you can profit from the product. Of course, idea validation is just one part of the equation. You’ll also want to gather feedback that allows you to iterate and improve the product.

Depending on the type of MVP testing you perform, the following metrics can help you evaluate MVP success:

  • Number of people who signed up
  • Number of people who pre-ordered your product
  • The average revenue per user
  • Number of users active on your MVP posts
  • Positive feedback from consumers during the interview
  • The amount generated in crowdfunding campaigns
  • Customer acquisition cost
  • Market share

4.What if my MVP fails in the test?

As they say in Silicon Valley, “Fail fast, fail forward.” While invalidating an idea can be frustrating, it’s excellent information because it means you’ve avoided wasting additional time and money.

Does that mean you should give up entirely, move to Tahiti, and sell coconuts on the beach for the rest of your life? Of course not! Within the feedback you receive on your MVP “failure,” there may be seeds for an even more profitable idea.

Whether you pivot to something similar and try that or you switch to a different product idea, an MVP is seldom a waste of time.

5.Can I skip MVP testing and go straight to launch?

Are you talking about building an MVP and skipping the testing? If so, that defeats the entire purpose of building an MVP since testing allows you to validate your idea, learn from customers, and iterate.

Now, are you thinking about launching a full-fledged product and hoping it will succeed without any initial input from customers? You can do that, but it will likely cost you more in the long run since you’ll spend time developing features the market doesn’t want or need. Plus, if the entire idea is a bust from the start, it’s better to learn that upfront before spending many months developing a full product.

6.What are some of the minimum product development mistakes I should avoid?

Avoid making the following mistakes when testing your MVP:

  • Skipping market research
  • Not choosing the right development team
  • Skipping the MVP validation and testing phase
  • Testing your MVP with the wrong audience
  • Disregarding stats and user feedback
Amit Manchanda
Written by

Amit Manchanda

Amit Manchanda is a seasoned Project Lead with a passion for technology and a knack for delivering successful software projects. With expertise in ASP, Adobe Flex, and Android development, he has established himself as a proficient developer and leader in the industry.

When he's not immersed in coding or leading development teams, Amit indulges in his love for cricket. He finds solace in watching cricket. The game is a source of inspiration for his work, reminding him of the importance of strategy, adaptability, and teamwork.

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